Building a business is tough. As SBDC consultant Steve Imke says: “It’s not for everyone. There are easier ways to make money.” It can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. The Pikes Peak SBDC is committed to helping businesses of all sizes in the Pikes Peak region grow. So we decided to tap the experts, asking them for advice on what it takes to run a business in this current Colorado Springs environment.
We feature an all-star lineup of successful business owners in the Colorado Springs area. We tried to include a variety of businesses: businesses from the trades, digital, law, and education. If you are thinking about starting a business, or growing your business through the SBDC’s free consulting and affordable workshops, take notes from the pros.
Here are the 5 pieces of advice from successful, long-standing businesses in our area:
There are a number of factors in running a successful business. First you must identify the market for your business. Are your products or services needed? If so, by whom, what and where? Once you identify the need for your business you must do basic market research in order to build a business plan. Creating a business plan helps clarify your strategy, gives you key areas to focus on and a road map to follow. This plan will allow you to understand your gross margin, cost of goods and your end game, net profit. From these vital areas you can identify your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). Just like the gauges in a car tell us if the battery is charged or the engine is running hot or cold. KPI’s allow us to monitor the strategic indicators of a businesses’ health. Finally, one individual characteristic that I noticed with nearly every successful business person or individual that is great in their field…discipline! Learn the art of self-discipline!! This will help you push through the challenges a business brings.
Succeeding in business in today’s climate is challenging. Most industries are saturated with other businesses with the same target market and are offering the same product or service. A business owner should determine early on what makes them special or unique and focus on those areas. As with most things in life, this can be a very experimental and frustrating task. Define what your core values are and then decide how to translate those values into the business. Being a female attorney in a formerly male dominated profession, it has taken some time to determine what makes my business different from the many other law firms in the area and determine what value I can offer my clients. Find your niche to stand out among your competitors and provide extraordinary customer service, some days will not seem like good days, make the good days count.
Build your reputation with communication: Word-of-mouth is a powerful lead generator – or lead killer, and it’s all based on how your client perceives their experience with your company. Great communication can mean the difference between a happy and an unhappy customer, and it relies on these three things: method, timing, volume.
Method: Choose the method of communication that best fits your customer, whether phone, email or in-person. Don’t know what they like? Ask them. Skip email for sensitive conversations. You can always follow up with an email summary if you need it in writing.
Timing: Proactive communication builds positive impressions. Touch base on a regular basis with clients, even just to check in. It’s better for your business than waiting to hear from them.
Volume: Particularly in a high-tech field, we work hard to keep clients informed but not overwhelmed. Pay attention to how your clients react (or don’t) to your efforts, and calibrate the amount of detail they get accordingly.
Quality communication is art, not science. Try new things. Admit when you didn’t hit the mark. Don’t let imperfections get you down. Like most things in business, your communication reputation is a long-term game.
Being a company that has been in business since 1955, we have seen our fair share of volatility in our industry. The key to our success is having the ability to pivot to the need of our consumer based on the current economic climate. In the most recent housing crisis we focused on building our service department as new homes declined. To keep our business running we kept our costs and prices low which attracted and retained new clients. The focus with new clients is maintaining a sterling reputation, which is accomplished by employing qualified candidates that have the same passion to provide consistent quality service that is expected of us. To separate ourselves from our competition we encourage our employees to be creative and provide us with recommendations on how to improve our current processes. As a management group we always think long term but focus on what is necessary to be successful each and every day.
The definition of small business success is debatable; however, there are some undeniable desired qualities. Successful business owners identify quality products/services that the community wants or needs, even if the community does not realize it yet. Next, the entrepreneur creates a detailed list of the reasons the “why” is more important than the “what”. This list/plan maintains the passion, excitement, dedication, and honesty necessary to be a successful business owner that community members will recommend. If a small business owner is not passionate about his or her product or service, how can he or she expect someone else to be enthusiastic about it? Successful small business owners are positive risk-takers that provide the best product or service at a reasonable price. A few additional necessities of a successful business are making smart hires, focusing on what the company does best rather than spreading too thin, and mastering the budget to avoid going into debt.
Remember, the SBDC is committed to helping you grow. If you’d like guidance or help growing your business—sign-up for our free consulting and affordable workshops.
We’d love to meet you.